The Filtered Excellence: May 11, 2017

Bob Geldof once asked us, “Where is the filtered excellence!?” It’s right here. Once a week we take a break from comedy to bring you this week’s picks of the best things to watch, the most interesting things to do, great things to try, the best picks to read, our favorite things to listen to and more.



Elian. Tim Golden and Ross McDonald directed this CNN-produced documentary about a custody battle that renewed a long standing feud between two nations.  In 2000, 6 year old Elian Gonzales was found clinging to an inner tube on the Florida Straits, the sole survivor of an ill fated attempt by his mother and her boyfriend to defect to the U.S. from Cuba.  Gonzales was taken in by relatives in Miami, but his father insisted on having him returned to Cuba.  The court battle – which pitted family members against one another – played out at the dawn of 24 hour news channels, and ended with a daring federal raid that was memorably captured by a AP photographer.  All of this sparked protests in both countries and put the 40 year hostilities between the two nations back in the spotlight.  Golden and McDonald, using archival footage and interviews with all involved, presents a much clearer and broader perspective of events that were originally fed on all of the news cycles.  The centerpiece of the film is that, for the first time, Gonzalez – now in his 20s and considered a national hero – gives his own account of the experience.  Informative, well researched and, at times, startling, Golden and McDonald have put together a doc that is both time capsule and prologue to what has happened between the two nations in its wake.  Elian opens in New York and Los Angeles on Friday.  You can also go to for more information.


Too Big For The World.  This new documentary from Renzo and Hanna Anerod looks at female bodybuilders and their fight to keep their competitions in Miss Olympia and The Arnold Classic alive.  They center on Irene, a 49 year old, mother of three who is determined to compete in both events before turning 50.  After learning that the female competition will no longer be featured, she launches her own investigation, tracking down all of the decision makers (including Arnold Schwarzenegger), other competitors and experts to find out why.  What she uncovers reveals long standing issues within the bodybuilding community including gender discrimination, body shaming, PEDs, fighting to stay in peak form, and much more.  Even more revealing is how those in charge – mostly men – have repeatedly failed to get any input from any women within the industry.  But at its core, its a human interest piece as each of the women discuss how bodybuilding helped them overcome identity, self worth and other personal issues.  It’s a film that celebrates acceptance as much as does striving for perfection.  Too Big For The World opens Friday in select theaters.  You can also go to for more information.


Citizen Jane: Battle For The City.  The latest from Matt Tyranuer (Valentino: The Last Emperor) tells the story of author, activist mother and housewife Jane Jacobs.  She wrote the groundbreaking book, The Death And Life Of American Cities, which advocated for more organic neighborhood and city building and deeply criticized the ‘urban renewal’ policies that were rampant in the 60s and 70s.  Jacobs also successfully led the campaign against New York City – and its powerful city planner Robert Moses – to raze the Greenwich Village neigborhood to make another expressway.  The doc uses a surprisingly deep well of news footage and interviews with Jacobs to give a full scope of her work and influence.  An inspiring look at how one person truly did make a difference.  Citizen Jane: Battle For The City is playing in New York, L.A. and On Demand now.  You can also go to for more information.




Black Origami by JLIN.  It’s been quite a wild ride for producer Jerrilynn Patton, better known as Jlin.  In 2015, she was still working swing shifts at U.S. Steel in her hometown of Gary, Indiana when she found out – via Facebook – that her debut album Dark Energy was making best of the year lists ranging from The New York Times to Wire and Pitchfork.  It led to concert appearances all of the world – all while maintaining shifts at U.S. Steel.    Finally quitting her day job a year later, Patton found herself working steadily in India.  It was her extensive stay in this adoptive home base that forms the basis of her latest album.  Working with Indian choreographer and performance artist Avril Stormy Unger, German experimentalist Holly Herndon and rapper Dope Saint Jude, the album is a blizzard of tribal and electronic rhythms, sweeping soundscapes and well placed vocals and sound bites.  This is sound alchemy at its finest and merely hints of her sonic brilliance.  Two albums in and JLIN has already changed the game significantly.  One of the year’s best.  Black Origami by JLIN will be available May 19th through Amazon, iTunes and all major music retailers.  You can also go to for more information.


From A Room, Vol 1 by Chris Stapleton.  As the Nashville machine pushed country more into a mainstream pop sound, Chris Stapleton – who first made a name for himself writing for Kenny Chesney, Luke Bryan and Darius Rucker – got country back to its roots with his 2015 award winning album Traveller.  With all of the accolades, awards and a slew of new, famous friends and fans, no one would have been surprised if the follow up would show lean into a more pop direction.  Instead, Stapleton retreated to RCA Studio A in Nashville – the same studio where Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard made their outlaw country classics – and cut an album with all of the elements that makes country music so revered in the first place.  Roadhouse rockers, late night laments, backyard boogie and vocals that owe more to Stax Records than Grand Old Opry, this is an album that showcases an artist in peak form.  The real deal and one of the year’s best.  From A Room, Vol 1 is available now through Amazon, iTunes and all major retailers.  You can also go to for tour dates and more information.


TajMo by Taj Mahal and Keb’ Mo.  Though a couple of decades separate them, Taj Mahal and Keb’ Mo have following the same musical arc:  Using the blues as a foundation, both artists have been able to make the connection behind the blues and all forms of popular music.  So it’s no surprise that they would pair up and make an album together.  As expected, its a musical stew: A crisp of acoustic blues, New Orleans bounce, Memphis soul, reggae, African rhythms, rock and much more.  The covers are even more revelation:  They take The Who’s ‘Squeeze Box’ into Cajun country and turn John Mayer’s ‘Waiting For The World To Change’ into a backyard romp.  Their styles, vocals and musicality mesh so well together, you’re left wondering why they didn’t do it sooner.  More importantly, you’re left hoping that they do it again.  An all around triumph and one of the year’s best.  TajMo is available now through Amazon, iTunes and all major music retailers.


Thin Black Duke by Oxbow.  Combining noise-rock, metal, jazz, avant garde, contemporary classical music and the blues, Oxbow have been blowing away audiences worldwide for nearly 30 years.  For their first album in 10 years, the California based group revisits and expands on this sonic stew, shapeshifting all of the idioms into a sound that is at times startling, overwhelming and yet inviting enough to warrant multiple listens.  This rich, dark, dense, exploratory music that is miles ahead and above most of what’s out there now.  It’s a bold and daring work.  Thin Black Duke is available now through Amazon, iTunes and all major music retailers.  You can also go to for tour dates and more information.





Coach Wooden & Me by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.  In 1966, Lew Alcindor, a standout high school basketball player out in New York, accepted a scholarship to UCLA so he can play for its highly regarded and respected coach John Wooden.  It was a life changing decision:  Together, they won three straight NCAA championships, the kickstart of a run that would include seven titles in eight years.  The two would remain close until Wooden’s passing in 2010.  In this moving and elegant new book, Kareem recalls how his relationship with Wooden evolved from teacher to student, father to son and ultimately, man to man.  He also details how Wooden’s legendary ‘Pyramid To Success’ helped him become a success on and off the court helping him navigate a great number of life’s challenges.  Kareem was just one of many of Wooden’s players who speak of him in glowing terms.  But with this new book, Kareem says it all and says it the best.  A celebration of one of sports – and life’s – greatest teachers.  Coach Wooden & Me by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar will be available May 16th through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and all major book retailers.




New York City:  Peak Performances.  Twin Peaks not only affirmed David Lynch as one of the best filmmakers and writers of his (or any other) generation, it also featured one of the best casts in recent memory.  It launched the careers of Lara Flynn Boyle, Sherilyn Fenn and Madchen Amick, Heather Graham and David Duchovny, made long time Lynch collaborator Kyle MacLachlan a star and gave a career second winds to veteran actors such as Piper Laurie, Peggy Lipton, Richard Beymer, Ray Wise, Michael Ontkean, and Joan Chen.  As the relaunch of Twin Peaks draws near, BAM Cinematek is presenting a retrospective that showcases some of David Lynch’s best work, along with the seminal works of some of the show’s multi-generational cast.  Eraserhead, Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me will be featured alongside such films as West Side Story, Carrie, The Warriors, Slap Shot, Beatbeat and others.  This is a unique way to get a taste of some of Lynch’s best work and also get to see other great films on a big screen once again.  Peak Performances will run at BAM May 12 through the 24th.  You can also go to for a complete list of films, dates, runtimes and more.


Los Angeles:   Princess.  This lady-driven salute to Prince – led by actor/comedian Maya Rudolph and jazz singer Gretchen Lieberum – have been blowing away audiences off and on for years.  With The Purple One’s birthday rapidly approaching, Princess will team with Fred Amisen and very special guests at The Largo for a benefit show for Planned Parenthood.  Tickets are going fast, if they haven’t gone already, so don’t say you didn’t know.  Go to for further info.

Want more excellence? Read last week’s The Filtered Excellence


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Earl Douglas is a writer/photographer based in New York City. A frequent contributor to The Interrobang, Earl is also Executive Director for the New York chapter of The Black Rock Coalition. Earl worked in radio for nearly two decades at WNEW-FM and XM Satellite Radio, which included being the on-air producer for Carol Miller, Scott Muni and Ron & Fez, and a contributor to Opie & Anthony. Earl has also independently published a number of books including Black Rock Volume 1, Urban Abyss, Mobile Uploads, and For Shimmy. His latest project is the photojournalism magazine PRAXIS, which is available exclusively through

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